Thursday, 24 September 2015

Where Do Artists Rest?

Have you ever wondered where your favourite artists - writes, painters, sculptors, musicians and more - are laid to rest when they leave us to create elsewhere? I've never really thought about it before. We have Poet's Corner as a place to lay some of our writers in Westminster Abbey but that's a drop in the ocean of past creative people who made a significant contribution to all our lives whether we realise it or not. With the majority of artists we know their names and works, probably very little about their lives and very little about their deaths. With a minority, we know a lot.

On my recent sojourn to Florence I found the resting places of two great artists. The church of Santa Croce holds many treasures and is the resting place of many prominent Italians over the years. It holds the tombs of Galileo, Machiavelli and Rossini to name but a few. It also holds the ornate tomb of Michelangelo Buonarroti.

Michelangelo's is the largest and most ornate tomb in the church, a great big marker in marble and paint that shouts out to the world that here lies an important person waiting for his Lord to raise him up into the glory he depicted in his art. It was nice, in a way. to stand there watching group after group of tourists troupe to the tomb, stand for a few minutes listening to their guide or read their guidebooks and then move on. Everyone has heard of Michelangelo and it's nice that, for a few moments, he's uppermost in people's thoughts.

Not all artists are buried in the great places of the world on the tourist trails. Some rest in smaller, out of the way churches that most visitors don't have time to see. One of the big draws at the Uffizi Gallery is Alessandro Botticelli and the room that temporarily houses some of his works was packed out with tourist groups when I visited the other day. I could hardly move for the crowds and certainly couldn't see much so I moved on to less crowded rooms. Botticelli's resting place is far less busy and far more peaceful. He lies in the church of Ognissanti (All Saints) a mile or so from Santa Croce. His tomb is marked by a round  marble marker on the floor of a small side chapel and it was nice to see that someone had left some flowers for him.

It was quite odd to see a little cardboard box with the name 'Botticelli' written in capital letters in blue marker pen on the front sitting beside the marker for his tomb. Inside were lots of bits of paper left by visitors with messages to Botticelli, wishes or hopes, in all languages. The topmost was from someone wanting to be a footballer when he grows up. I don't really understand this since Botticelli isn't a saint but people clearly think he has the power to intervene in their fates. That is a strange but touching tribute to a painter. His art has touched people.

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